When black men protect black women
Overlooking the larger request from the #ProtectBlackWomen hashtag after the Will Smith slap
It was way too hot outside on the West Side of Chicago, and for some reason, I decided not to eat ahead of time. I was excited to hang out with a friend and go to an Aaliyah concert. Because I’m short (5'3) and she’s the height of your average model, I ditched her to try to get a better view. She and her two equally tall cousins were fine where they were standing and could see the stage. All I could see was butts and backs while my teenaged body just wanted room to do the choreography to “One In a Million.”
While DJ Kool was rapping “Let Me Clear My Throat” as the opening act, I wiggled my way to a great spot toward the front. I was dancing and singing along — until the heat decided to be a hater. I blinked repeatedly trying to snap out of it but felt the outside world swirling around me. This was the first and only time I’d ever felt like I was going to faint. I went from thinking everything was spinning around me to knowing it was me who was spinning.
“She’s about to faint,” a man’s voice said. “Move back so she doesn’t fall on us.”
Those two sentences made my body start cooperating. A grown man seeing a teenaged girl clearly in a vulnerable state and getting ready to faint, and then choosing to tell his friends to move away from me let me know, “You’re on your own. Get it together.”
I still don’t know how in the world I made it out of the crowd. I just turned around, put one foot in front of the other and very slowly walked toward a nearby curb. I sat near another group of men, and I could feel their eyes on me. Not even one asked, “Are you OK?” Again, my brain said, “You’re on your own. Get it together.” I breathed a few times, looked around for the nearest food vendor or water fountain, found one, and guzzled down about a pitcher’s worth of water. Just like that, I was back to me! I stayed where I was on that curb, sitting and snapping my fingers throughout the rest of the Aaliyah concert.
It was a weird moment for me. I did find my friend and her two cousins about an hour later. I told them what happened, but by that time, it was spilled milk and we went on to the next thing. (I have no idea when I finally did eat something. I’m sure I did though.)